If you’ve seen the trailer for this movie, another fine product from Aardman, then you already know exactly what to expect. A bunch of likeable pirates sail the seas, a jaunty soundtrack plays (including “Swords Of A Thousand Men”, which works wonderfully with the visuals over the opening credits) and there’s plenty of stop motion greatness to enjoy. As you might be able to deduce, I’m quite a fan of stop motion.
Hugh Grant provides the voice of Pirate Captain, a man loved by his crew and unafraid of boarding ships and trying to steal booty. Sadly, he’s just not had much luck lately. He hasn’t really had much luck for a number of years and, most disappointing of all, he’s never managed to win the “Pirate Of The Year” award. But that’s all about to change, or so he hopes. Things start getting a bit strange when Pirate Captain and his crew board a ship that holds one Charles Darwin (you may have heard of him, he came up with that wonderful theory of evolution that some people still refuse to believe in). When Mr. Darwin notices that Polly the parrot is actually a dodo he convinces Pirate Captain that this could lead to fame and riches. Which is when things get even stranger.
If you liked other releases from Aardman then you’re going to like this, it’s that simple. A family movie that’s fun for all ages, it may not have quite the inventiveness and gag quota of the wonderful Wallace & Gromit outings but it comes pretty close. The details throughout, in both the foreground and the background, are wonderful, the script by Gideon Defoe (based on the books by . . . . Gideon Defoe) is a lot of fun and everything has been put together with care and overseen by the talented Peter Lord (who also directed the fantastic Chicken Run).
The icing on the cake, however, has to be the great vocal cast assembled for the adventure. Hugh Grant has long been a bit of a comedy god in my book and keeps his reputation intact here, with superb delivery of the material. Martin Freeman is every bit as good in his supporting role, as is Brendan Gleeson. David Tennant and Imelda Staunton are both wonderful as, respectively, Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria and then we have small, but fantastic, turns from people such as Ashley Jensen, Russell Tovey, Brian Blessed, Lenny Henry, Salma Hayek and Jeremy Piven. They may be smarting slightly when they see that a lot of the bigger laughs are taken by a monkey who doesn’t speak but, hey, that’s what happens in the wonderful world of stop motion animation.
Perfect pacing, great visuals and a number of lines that will have you laughing out loud make this movie one to watch and enjoy with or without children in attendance.
DIRECTOR: PETER LORD (CO-DIRECTOR JEFF NEWITT)
WRITER: GIDEON DEFOE
STARS: HUGH GRANT, MARTIN FREEMAN, DAVID TENNANT, IMELDA STAUNTON, BRENDAN GLEESON, JEREMY PIVEN, LENNY HENRY, SALMA HAYEK, BRIAN BLESSED, ASHLEY JENSEN, RUSSELL TOVEY
RUNTIME: 88 MINS APPROX